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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Vivid Bayou Setting Makes Poignant Coming-of-Age Story Unique

(Image from Indiebound)

For 11-year-old Olivia "Livie" Mouton, life on the bayou has always seemed about perfect. Sure, she clashes with her mother and gets bossed around by her older sister, but what does that matter when she can paddle away in her pirogue, go frogging with her father, or raise baby alligators? Although her family - especially her mother - urges Livie to "act like a lady," she's happiest when she's outside, romping through the swamps like a wild animal.

When a boating accident leaves Livie's mother in a coma, Livie's haunted by guilt, knowing she's the one responsible. She can't tell anyone her secret. She can only light candles at the church and pray for her mother to wake up, even just for an instant, so Livie can tell her how sorry she is for everything that went wrong the day of the accident. But Mamma's not waking up; in fact, the doctors can do nothing more for her. So, Daddy brings her home and sets her lifeless body in the parlor, hoping that surrounding Mamma with her family's love will snap her out of the coma.

Livie's creeped out by this new Mamma, who's nothing like the woman who used to paint pictures in the art cottage and row through the bayou to take casseroles to sick neighbors. She can't stand to touch Mamma's body, let alone help care for her. When Livie's Aunt Colleen sweeps in to help the family, Livie's relieved. The woman and her 9-year-old son are a thorn in Livie's side, but at least their presence frees Livie up to do the one thing she can do for Mamma - get a healing spell from Miz Allemond, the scary voodoo queen who lives on the edge of the swampland. With a little help from the traiteur, Livie knows she can atone for her sins by bringing Mamma back. She can't fail, not now when Daddy's losing work, Livie's older sister is about to get married, and everything else is falling apart. Not now, when they need Mamma more than ever.

Using lush detail to bring the bayou land to life, Kimberley Griffiths Little has penned a novel that is both atmospheric and affecting. The Healing Spell, a poignant coming-of-age story, gives us a heroine worth rooting for - a young girl who's hurting, but determined to right the wrongs she's caused. It also offers a vivid setting, a timeless wisdom, and the compelling tale of a family, unique, yet recognizable in their fragility and strength. Little gets everything right in this beautiful story of a child's search for redemption among the wild beauty of Louisiana's bayous and the even more treacherous depths of the human heart.

(Readalikes: Reminded me a teensy bit of Zora and Me by Victoria Bond & T.R. Simon)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for very mild language and subject matter more suitable to older middle graders

To the FTC, with love: I bought The Healing Spell from Amazon using some of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.


  1. I "read" this a month ago. But it couldnt keep my attention and I ended up skipping pages. Got the gist of it.

  2. Really? It didn't hold your attention? It grabbed me right from the beginning. I loved it.

  3. hmmmm maybe i just wasnt in the mood for this book. Sometimes I feel grumpy about all books in general.

  4. LOVED this book! I suggested it to my library for their mother/daughter book club.


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